THE DEATH OF a 7-month-old child of a Northeast Philadelphia couple who believe in faith-healing instead of medical attention has been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.

Brandon Scott Schaible, the son of Herbert and Catherine Schaible, died in the family's Rhawnhurst home April 18 at 8:35 p.m. from bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, according to the autopsy report. The infant began displaying difficulty breathing, irritability and decreased appetite three days before his death, the report said.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible are on probation for the 2009 death of their 2-year-old son, Kent, after they chose to simply pray for his recovery, rather than seek medical care, when that child fell ill. No criminal charges have been filed against the couple in Brandon's case, and the District Attorney's Office would not comment yesterday on possible charges.

The Schaibles are members of the fundamentalist First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, which does not believe in or accept medical care.

A Common Pleas judge rebuked the couple last month for violating their probation by not seeking medical attention for little Brandon.

"I am sorry for your loss. Deeply sorry," Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple. "But in all honesty, I am more sorry for the fact that this innocent little child will not be able to grow up to be what he wanted to be."

After Brandon's death, the couple called a funeral home and said the child had died. The funeral home immediately called the Medical Examiner's Office, which called police.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible remain free, but are scheduled for another probation hearing before Lerner June 14. The couple could face five to 10 years in prison for a probation violation in addition to criminal charges.

Attorneys for Herbert and Catherine Schaible could not be reached for comment yesterday.